The Children’s Health and Socioeconomic Implications Project’s curriculum, SI! Program, is a multifaceted program designed to promote cardiovascular health across New York City. Taking a school-based approach, we are working to develop a culture of health in our community.
Our four-month kindergarten intervention, geared to 4- to 5-year-olds, is a multicomponent curriculum constructed to engage young children and their families. It contains five units, each with audiovisuals, interactive materials, and art/play-based learning activities:
- Body and Heart
- Physical Activity
- Healthy Diet
- Emotional Management
- Celebrating What We’ve Learned
The program is partly based on and adapted from educational initiatives by Sesame Workshop and the Foundation for Science, Health and Education. It features characters such as Dr. Ruster, a puppet version of our principal investigator, Dr. Fuster, and an energetic cartoon heart named Cardio, who presents most of the materials. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai gratefully acknowledges Sesame Workshop for slowing us to use the Sesame Street characters and content from its Healthy Habits for Life programs. We use interactive resources and age-appropriate materials to support and engage young children in the learning of our Heart Health program, while providing training and technical assistance to teachers throughout the intervention.
The SI! Program addresses these topics:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Performing regular physical activity
- Understanding how the body and heart work
- Managing emotions to avoid unhealthy lifestyle decisions
We are assessing the impact of our program on children’s physical activity and food consumption through a questionnaire called delivered to the parents, and through obesity indicators such as body mass index (BMI), calculated from children’s height and weight.
Elementary schools enrolled in this study will receive either one or two educational interventions. One group of schools will receive the SI! Program in both kindergarten and second grade, while another group will receive an intervention only in second grade. Through conserved assessment procedures, we will use comparative data from these two groups to determine if re-intervention is an effective strategy to improve the sustainability of our program’s effect.
As part of our multilevel intervention, teachers will receive training on the Program’s curriculum, including information on healthy diet, the importance of physical activity, and health-promoting lifestyle decisions. Parents will take part in specially designed family activities, as well as receive newsletters with information on the SI! Program, aiming to create a culture of health. Our goal is to increase the benefit to the children by involving their immediate environment: teachers and family.
Both parents and teachers involved in the study will receive assessment questionnaires that will address physical activity level, food intake, smoking habits, and quality of life. We will also record the height, weight, and blood pressure of teachers (directly assessed) and parents (self-reported) in a continuing effort to involve and support the entire school community in our push for heart health.
We hope that through the consistent involvement of parents and teachers in our health intervention, we can improve the health of children who may be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease or who have a barrier to maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. This goal will support our mission of creating long-lasting lifestyle changes for young children and their families.